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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 22nd October 2014 at 2:00 pm
Header photo by Mary Chang; other photos by Martin Sharman
Many moons ago, I had seriously entertained moving to Manchester. The common question from local friends: “why would you ever leave America for some place that rains all the time?” Over the years I’ve become friends with quite a few musicians from the place and even if it weren’t for all the people I know there, there is no denying that the city is the North’s main hub for music and bands. While I’ve visited several times now over the last 8 years, I’ve only ever seen shows at the Apollo (Morrissey; Fenech-Soler supporting), the Opera House (Morrissey), Bridgewater Hall (Morrissey), Gulliver’s (City Reign) and the Deaf Institute (Dutch Uncles with Fiction supporting; the Orielles; School of Language), and I still haven’t made much of a dent on the enormous list of venues whose doors I’m still yet to pass through. Really though, there have only been two venues left I’ve been really keen in visiting for gigs: Peter Hook’s FAC251 and the Soup Kitchen. I had the opportunity 2 Saturdays ago to finally see a show there and by one of my favourite electronic artists as of late.
Located on Spear Street in the ridiculously vibrant Northern Quarter, The Soup Kitchen is smack dab in the middle of all the action. Although it’s only been open for 2 short years, it has already become a meeting place for locals not only for their amazing food. As the name suggests, they do amazing soup (among others, Johnny Marr is a fan), as well as maintain a brilliant seasonal, entirely from scratch in-house menu. But as you can imagine from me spending the time writing up this feature, they play host to some pretty fab gigs too, most often put on by local promoter legends Now Wave.
Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control, Martin and I missed the two opening bands on this particular night, but thankfully we arrived just in time to catch Cloud Boat’s full set. As often happens at the madness that is SXSW, I missed both showcases by the London trio, but as it turns out when I had a word with them after this show at Soup Kitchen, coming out to Manchester to see them was probably for the best anyhow. (I also had a lovely chat in the wee hours of the morning with Tom, Sam and Andres in Liverpool the following night, and you can expect that interview feature with them in the coming days when I’ve finally come to from this jetlag.) I’ve blathered on long enough about the venue, let’s talk about the band and the show!
Cloud Boat released their second album for R&S imprint Apollo Records in July, so it made sense that ‘Model of You’ would be well-represented on this evening. ‘Carmine’, their opening track for the evening, was the perfect start of what was mostly incredibly atmospheric, gorgeously made music. The gentle sweetness of ‘Hideaway’ also made an early appearance in their set; from that point on, I was at a loss for words. These days I feel like I don’t come across enough vocalists that make me weak in the knees. Tom Clarke possesses a gift, an often ethereal voice that seems couldn’t have come from anywhere but the heavens, and I just don’t understand how the full package of Cloud Boat isn’t more famous and popular yet.
While I was disappointed that one of my favourites from ‘Model of You’, ‘Thoughts in Mine’, didn’t make the cut in Manchester, the performance of ‘Aurelia’ more than made up for the omission, with its upbeat tempo and Clarke’s repeated refrain of “wondering if I should dive in” making for sure one of the standout moments for the night. ‘Portrait of Eyes’, with its glitchy beats and haunting vocals, proved also imposing, with the lyrics, “the first page of my map is in colour / a scrapbook for all that I love / the second page of my map is all selfish desires / and looks like the work of a child”.
I may say it too often, but I don’t really care: I think some people get the massively incorrect impression when confronted with a band that has loads upon loads of electronic equipment and gadgetry onstage that it indicates a lack of heart and a lack of talent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Us fans of any genre touched by electronics know that if anything, the true artists of this kind of music work that many times harder to prove that they’re the real deal and not reliant and are entirely unlike the manufactured pop stars of our generation. Many times, and also true of Cloud Boat as you will read in my interview with them, their musical backgrounds didn’t even start with electronics. So before you judge a band by their gear, I urge you to listen to their music with an open mind and an open heart.
Tunes from their debut ‘Book of Hours’ also made a welcome appearance. ‘Bastion’ was pure beauty in its sparseness, and being able to hear songs from both albums at the same gig shows you immediately how the band has progressed and evolved. The biggest shame of the evening was that they couldn’t have played longer; as it was a Saturday in Manchester, there was a dance night to follow after Cloud Boat’s set, which meant an early curfew. But I’m not going to complain too much. I’m really happy to have finally have seem Tom, Sam and Andres live and this show in this Northern town has whet my appetite for many future shows and hopefully many more releases from the London act. Wishing you every success, guys.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 21st October 2014 at 4:00 pm
The latest promo from Geordie stalwarts Maximo Park is for ‘Give, Get, Take’, the opening track from their current album ‘Too Much Information’, released in February.
As noted by the Maximo devoted, their last video for ‘Midnight on the Hill’ didn’t feature the band at all, so this performance video in a space well loved by and truly important to the North East band is a nice change. Somehow, I felt I’d been there before, so I asked the band on Twitter if my gut feeling had any merit. (It did; turns out the venue is the famed Bridge Tavern in Newcastle, just a stone’s throw away from the main railway station in town where our Martin took me the first time I visited Newcastle last year.) Watch the video below the Twitter embed.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 21st October 2014 at 2:00 pm
As you can imagine with me living in the States, I don’t have the opportunity too often to take advantage of London album launch party invitations. However, this past holiday of mine in the UK happily coincided with the week that Sivu’s fab debut album ‘Something on High’ was released on Atlantic Records just the day before, and timing worked perfectly for me to make the journey down to the big smoke from Liverpool to see him play at Oslo Hackney. (Read my review of the debut here; he’s currently on tour with Nick Mulvey and all the dated are listed here.)
For those of you familiar with London venues – of which there are many – the smaller ones that bands call with minimal adoration part of ‘the toilet circuit’ tend to be pretty grim. And smell of things that should not be mentioned by a lady. Oslo, located quite handily next to the Hackney Central Overground station, suffers no such problems, as it hasn’t been open all that long. As a music journo, it’s nice to go somewhere where I know if I drop my jumper on the floor, it won’t be all gross with god knows what when I pick it back up. (Unfortunately, this was not the case when a punter knocked into me on Saturday night at Manchester Soup Kitchen and my new Cloud Boat t-shirt – a white one – was an unfortunate victim of the venue’s grimy floor. Review of that show is forthcoming.)
As you will have read in my review of ‘Something on High’, my impression of Sivu’s music is that its alternative style has a unique way of relaying emotions and the oft poignancy of said feelings. So imagine my surprise when a completely bonkers – and surely heavily pissed – female super fan screamed and yelled her way through a set list that featured softer, more subdued numbers that the rest of us were trying to enjoy for their emotional quotient. At the encore, I can’t imagine James Page has had many fans this crazy at his shows; he tried to laugh it off, saying, “I didn’t know I was such a babe magnet!” Well James, if Hozier and your current tourmate Nick Mulvey are, maybe you are too. (I still don’t understand the ridiculous hype surrounding either and far prefer Sivu’s debut over Andrew’s.)
With its haunting vitriol, minor key tune ‘Love Lives in This House’ seemed like an odd choice to open a celebratory album launch night. However, things quickly picked up and the more upbeat previously released single ‘Bodies’ and LP starting point ‘Feel Something’. Sivu’s first-ever release ‘Better Man Than He’, most famous for its promo video filmed from within an MRI machine at St. Barts’ hospital in London, elicited a lovely crowd sing-along that made Page smile; he told it meant so much that we could share in the realisation of a dream of his from years ago.
Clearly the most fun song from the album, ‘Can’t Stop Now’, was just as fun live, providing punters an opportunity to shake a tail feather. ‘God Speaks in Tongues’, which does not appear on the new release but has been a firm favourite of Sivu’s long-time supporters, warmly received by this audience. However, for its ability to tug at the heartstrings, the most touching moment of the night had to go to the performance of ‘Sleep’ just prior to the encore, as Page alternated between his regular and falsetto voices in masterful delivery. I’m not sure how I managed not to cry, as its telling of suicide as the only option in the face of unrequited love is truly genuine, despite its conclusion painting an extreme image of desperation of a lover spurned. Love hurts. And Page has expertly grasped just how to express this beautifully in song.
After the cut: Sivu’s set list from the album launch.
Continue reading Live Review: Sivu at London Oslo Hackney (‘Something on High’ album launch party) – 14th October 2014
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 20th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
If you were to run into Tom Vek in an everyday situation – say you’re in Gregg’s buying a sausage roll and he’s behind you in the queue – you would have no idea a bloke like him would be a cult electronic hero. With his black, thick-rimmed glasses and massive head (hey, big heads = big brains, I can attest to this, I have a big head too), he looks more like a boffin who should be in a lab coat, working out the cure for cancer.
But no, thankfully this anorak has focussed his energies and synapses towards music. In certain circles, Vek is a big deal, and understandably so: he’s a producer as well as being an adept musician, showing off his prowess Sunday night in Liverpool. Although he will be showcasing at CMJ in New York this month, Vek is just not massive enough stateside for anyone, much less himself, to take the financial risk of him touring there, so I’d never seen him until the night.
Opening at the Kazimier were Leeds four-piece Fun Adults. They’ll remind you a lot of Wild Beasts; like the Kendal band and Vek, they take full advantage of both traditional rock band and electronic elements. However, I mention Wild Beasts because this band has two vocalists that take turns with the spotlight and both favour a falsetto, admittedly not my favourite.
The real question we’re left with is, does the world really need another Wild Beasts? To their credit, Fun Adults can be much more dancier and funkier than the Kendalites, which is always a plus in my book, and they also showed their versatility in track ‘Eavesdropper’. Starting the song quietly as the singer gently strummed his acoustic guitar, what a shock it was as the number built into a monster, the funky drummed rhythm propelling the song towards its climax.
Vek had taken a 6-year hiatus between the critically acclaimed debut from 2005, ‘We Have Sound’, and 2011’s ‘Leisure Seizure’, so waiting another 3 years for ‘Luck’ to appear wasn’t a huge surprise. However, you could tell easily that many of the punters in attendance at the lovely Kazimier, a Sound City venue near and dear to us TGTFers, were fans from way back, cheering and whooping at the mere mention of “..in a black 1989 Mercedes Benz…” of ‘Nothing but Green Lights’. One of them Liverpudlians even went so far as humming – loudly and emphatically – the too familiar opening notes of ‘’, with Vek smiling, insisting, “but that’s not one of mine. I think you’re at the wrong gig!”, all before his sequencer / guitarist Sam (who Vek referred to as 5 AM) repeated the same notes with buttons of his sequencer pressed in quick and impressive succession.
A lot of people who aren’t into electronic music, and who are sceptical of the genre like my own mother, think these kinds of artists aren’t real musicians, that everything they do is computer generated and there is no real artistry to their sound. So I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to see Vek showing off his guitar and bass playing abilities, proving to anyone who needed evidence that unlike the manufactured pop stars of today, he is an artist not borne of a well-stocked studio but of true musicianship along with quite good production chops!
Where to begin? Vek played for over an hour and a half with minimal stoppage time between songs. It was, in short, an electro head’s dream. I thought several times during the set I might need to pinch myself to confirm this show was actually happening before my very eyes, on the same stage I’d seen Glass Animals and We Have Band unleash their own selections of synths on a Sound City audience this past May. One can see why Vek’s voice divides opinion: its nasal, atonal qualities make it sound nearly robotic, but if you consider it in the grand scheme of his music, it completely works as another one of his instruments, a disaffected, unemotional player while the instrumentation serves to bring the funk.
As he’s got several albums to his name, Vek had an incredible back catalogue to draw from, while also bringing to the fore several of the tracks from ‘Luck’. One of the most successful of these were ‘Pushing Your Luck’, which benefitted from a surprise mix into Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s ‘Push It’. Imagine it being sung in Vek’s voice! After it was played and Vek was sure about its warm reception, he quipped, “everyone needs a little Salt ‘n’ Pepa in their life every once in a while”. Indeed, Mr Vek. ‘Aroused’, from ‘Leisure Seizure’, with its massive trilled beats, reverberated off the walls of the Kazimier. If a man who looks as geeky as Vek can pull off a song about sex and get a whole crowd in Liverpool all worked up, it gives us all hope, doesn’t it?
His set ended with recent single ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’, the entire crowd moving and grooving to every beat, proving even 3 years out from ‘Leisure Seizure’, he’s still got it. Like so many indie acts I love, I wish for Vek to do massively well commercially around the world. At the same time though, watching him at the Kazimier last night play to a very decently-sized crowd, all of whom clearly loved and enjoyed his music, made you feel like you were part of something very intimate and special and I wouldn’t have traded anything in the world for the experience.
After the cut: Tom Vek’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Tom Vek with Fun Adults at Liverpool Kazimier – 12th October 2014
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 10th October 2014 at 4:00 pm
French Web site La Blogotheque does atmospheric on location filming very, very well. Take for example their most recently revealed video featuring Sivu, who will be releasing his debut album ‘Something on High’ on Monday on Atlantic Records. The album’s stunning, I can assure you; I reviewed it earlier this week.
This live video takes us to Cap Blanc Nez, a cape in Northern France with stunning cliffs ala the White Cliffs of Dover, and Sivu’s accompanied by a brass band. While Sivu will be playing London Oslo Hackney next Tuesday, the 14th of October, as well as continuing as the primary support for Nick Mulvey on his UK tour which lands tonight in Falmouth, you’re unlikely to see a performance of ‘Better Man Than He’ like this at those shows. Watch the video with a gorgeous French sunset in the background below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 9th October 2014 at 4:00 pm
Carrie and I were just talking last week about us catching CYMBALS perform live at SXSW 2014 at Cheer Up Charlie’s, where I almost missed them by accident. The English band were over here in the States over the summer for a short string of live dates. Naturally, when they were in Seattle, they recorded a live set for radio station KEXP, as you do. In the video below are ‘Erosion’ ‘You Are’, ‘Winter ’98’, ‘The Natural World’ and ‘Like an Animal’, now committed to film for posterity. Enjoy.
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